Backcountry pilots descend on Johnson Creek airstrip

Backcountry aviators from throughout the country made their way to the mountains of Central Idaho June 14-16 for the eighth annual Johnson Creek SuperCub summer fly-in.

Located on 40 acres of land near the small town of Yellow Pine, Johnson Creek is a favorite base camp for backcountry pilots. It is one of 31 state-owned airstrips managed by ITD’s Division of Aeronautics, and is open for use throughout the summer.

The event, coordinated by Dave Kirsten of, was created in 2006 as a rendezvous for recreational aviators. This year, planes began flying into the airstrip on Thursday (June 13) and left the area on Sunday.

The fly-in attracted about 110 aircraft, primarily SuperCub single-engine planes.

For many of the pilots and their families, the trip to Johnson Creek involved camping, hiking, fishing, camaraderie and day flights in to other remote airstrips.

Pilots enjoyed quick trips from Johnson Creek to areas such as Sulfur Creek, Moose Creek, Mackay Bar and the Salmon River.

Idaho is home to more backcountry airstrips than any other state in the contiguous U.S.

“The fly-in couldn’t have gone better. The weather was great, and we had lots of people,” Kirsten said. “It really was the most successful event in my memory.”

Initially, weather was a concern for the fly-in. Navigating the airstrip is already a challenge because of the towering peaks, but clouds and the possibility of thunderstorms made it even more challenging.

“We got lucky – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky Saturday and Sunday, and those were our most important flying days.”

Around 150 in attendance enjoyed a weekend of relaxation that included two catered dinners and a raffle. Friday night’s dinner was sponsored by Horsefly Aviators, and Saturday’s was funded by the Cubcrafters organization.

Raffle proceeds resulted in a donation of about $1,000 to the fund for rebuilding the Big Creek airstrip; it also provided $1,000 to the Division of Aeronautics.

The raffle included more than $13,000 worth of items such as headphones, engine instruments, fuel certificates and camping supplies. The big winner of the raffle took home a set of Alaskan Bushwheels tires. Click here for photos.

The fly-in attracts more families with children every year; approximately 15 children attended this year, each of whom took away a prize. Evening activities for kids involved flying remote-controlled airplanes and making S’mores.

“The presence of kids grows more and more every year, and no kid leaves the fly-in without a prize,” Kirsten said.

The Johnson Creek fly-in is one of the best opportunities for a pilot to explore Idaho’s wilderness and enjoy its many benefits. The mountainous beauty of the state’s backcountry is an unparalleled experience.

“It’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing over the years, and something I’m glad to continue to be a part of.”

Click here for a link to a video of the event.

For more information about the fly-in, visit the SuperCub website.

Published 6-21-13